David Schnarch and the dynamic duo of Ellen Bader and Pete Pearson tell us that the secret to happy marriage is the level of differentiation of each spouse. (Differentiated people show completely who they are and what they want, even when the other partner doesn't like it or agree. They also are able to accept their partners' differences and disagreements, to a reasonable point.) Researcher John Gottman says that for a marriage to last and be satisfying, spouses must know to whom they are married and avoid the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse": Criticism (attacking spouse's character), Stonewalling (Refusing to Talk), Contempt (Attacking the sense of self, sarcasm, sneering) and Defensiveness (Warding off spouse's attempt to talk as an attack, when it isn't). Tara Parker-Pope in today's New York Time writes about another variable of a happy married life: "self-expansion", the self-growth and new learning spouses gain from their partners. Read the article here. There is even a simple quiz that you can take about you and your partner here.
Page McBee writes a different kind of story in the Time's Modern Love column. She talks about her sense of unworthiness and her unrealistic black-and-white expectations of marriage that changed after she and her girlfriend survived a near-fatal armed robbery. After the robbery, her childhood trauma and related attachment issues arose, were acted out, and then slowly resolved. When it came time for the wedding, she approaches it through her reasoning and finally fully-present adult self, not her shamed, magical child. It's lovely. Right here.